The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and reversing Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce probably won’t change much about the way state political campaigns are run in Michigan. The political parties and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce have spent some $50 million over the last decade for candidate-focused television issue advertisements in gubernatorial and Michigan Supreme Court campaigns. That spending certainly has included large amounts contributed by corporations. It is highly unlikely that there are any corporations in Michigan that don’t know how to get in the game.
The great question before the people of Michigan is whether we expect and want transparency and accountability for corporate spending in our election campaigns. Up to this time, all the corporate spending in our election campaigns has been outside the State campaign finance reporting system. In Citizens United, the U.S. Supreme Court clearly upheld the requirement for corporations to disclose their contributors when they exercise their speech rights in federal campaigns. It is high time for the Michigan Legislature to pass a law requiring similar disclosure in state campaigns.
Transparency and accountability are conservative values, and they are progressive values. Whose values are preventing full disclosure of who is speaking in Michigan’s electoral politics?